My goals were to write about:
- Women counting for more than their beauty. Explore our cultures preoccupation with weight and beauty.
- Highlighting women who are making a difference.
- Give practical advice on how women can achieve their full potential.
- Read and review books emphasizing strong women or women who have discovered their passion. Study these women as role models and analyze what made them strong.
-Answer women’s questions on work and finance issues.
-Continue to get a clue about health and beauty products. Currently, there seems to be a product or procedure that will fix just about anything. I plan to continue researching what products are genuine and which are scams.
After a year of writing posts covering topics such as shadism, the gender wealth gap and sexual harassment the year ended on a low note when I found myself guilty of gender bias. I had automatically and wrongly assumed the woman I was introduced to was the subordinate while the man she was with was the manager. After this incident I lost the enthusiasm for my project and despite vowing to continue it in 2012 I went in a different direction.
While reading Jenny Nordberg’s book The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in AfghanistanI couldn’t help but be reminded my former project.
After the Taliban regime was removed, the new Afghan government mandated a minimum of 25 percent of parliament seats be held by females. Azita, a woman Nordberg features in this book, is one of these females. In their almost five years in office, she and the other women rarely speak during sessions and if they do are ridiculed and cut off. In Azita’s reasoning:
it is better to exist on the inside, where she at least has a vote than to only shout about women’s rights from outside the barricades, where few but the foreign press might listen. Her own brand of resistance is slightly different. For instance, she never misses an opportunity to be on camera. The young and spirited Kabul press corps, much of which operates with foreign aid money, often ask Azita to comment on parliamentary negotiations and she always accepts. She prefers to be interviewed on the lawn outside, as the plenum usually disrupts in angry murmurs and complains at the sight of a video camera, although photography is indeed allowed. Azita never confronts colleagues who argue women should not appear on television, but to her that is exactly the point. If a young boy or girl somewhere in Afghanistan catches a glimpse of a woman on television, and an elected politician at that, it has some small value. To show them that at least she exists. That she is a possibility. (Pgs. 56-57)
As we go about our lives it is easy to not think about those who live in other parts of the world and what they are experiencing. I am aware women in Afghanistan have it rough and were treated as second class citizens under the Taliban, but I didn’t realize progress for women has seen little change since 2001. Sure in Kabul and some of the major cities more women are seen on the streets and more girls attend school. Outside of these areas though burkas are still commonplace and women rarely venture out without their husbands, marriages are forced, honor killings are not unusual, rape victims go to jail or are forced to marry their rapists and daughters are used as currency to settle disputes or pay off debts. Daughters are so undervalued that some families are forced to dress their girls as boys. The reasons for this vary from needing a son to work outside of the home to requiring a son to improve the family's standing in the community.
Changing this culture is not going to be an easy. Power in Afghanistan has long been held by men who control property and women are considered property. I applaud women like Azita who do what little they can to improve the lives of all. If I can spend a year reading and writing in an attempt to make women count then at the end of the year still succumb to a gender bias can you imagine what those trying to promote woman’s equality in Afghanistan are up against?
As I continue my quest to reinvent my life in my 52nd year perhaps I need to consider bringing back my making women count project. I may not be able to actually make women count or even eliminate all of my own deeply ingrained gender biases, but hopefully I can help show others the possibility of change.
This post was inspired by The Underground Girls of Kabul by journalist Jenny Nordberg, who discovers a secret Afghani practice where girls are dressed and raised as boys. Join From Left to Write on September 16th as we discuss The Underground Girls of Kabul. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate